Smaller than the French Riviera and the Maritime Alps region, the state of Israel, in all its length and diversity, offers an incredible variety of landscapes, traditions and populations. In the space of just a few days, you can plunge into the festive effervescence of Tel Aviv, often compared to New York or Berlin, visit Lake Tiberias or the old city of Jerusalem, a meeting point of the three great monotheistic religions. You can get lost in the desert just before floating on the surface of the Dead Sea, our planet’s lowest point (more than 400 metres below sea level) and admire the Red Sea corals at its southernmost extremity.
This journey will take you through a number of archeological sites, incredibly rich museums and striking contrasts between the forests of Galilee and the mauve-hued mountains surrounding the Gulf of Eilat.
We are going to give you a glimpse of this diversity culminating in Tel Aviv and guide you through the city of Eilat, the starting point of your journey to Petra, in Jordan, introducing you to one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
Tel Aviv, A Free, Lively And Merry Place
A strip of white sand stretches for about fifteen kilometres. The old town of Jaffa, on its one side, the new Tel Aviv port with its myriad of restaurants and cafes, on the other. Futuristic towers, grand hotels, offices, small bars and the old railway station redesigned to become a picturesque focal point for shopping and idleness.
Tel Aviv never stops. This is a lively, free and cheerful city, a fascinating melting pot of people, cultures and beliefs. This is «little New York» enriched by oriental perfumes.
Just a few steps away from the steep streets of Jaffa are wide boulevards with their white buildings in the purest Bauhaus style. They were designed in the early 1930s by architects, freshly immigrated, trained in Europe and putting their modernist vision of urbanity into practice.
The «Florentine» area, popular with young people, stands out for its very different atmosphere of trendy pubs, graffiti and wild parties. Pomegranate juice, fleshy dates, multicoloured fruit, herbs, spices and exotic specialties greet you in its market.
Here, people work, have fun and innovate. There is a bewildering concentration of start-ups, an intense cultural life, parties until early morning. This is Tel Aviv in all its colours, contrasts and incredible vitality.
Two things are not to be missed out on here: the Museum of Modern Art with its Impressionist collection and paintings dating to the early 20th century and the Eretz Israel Museum taking you through the history of this brand new nation rooted in the most distant past.
The Mauve Mountains And The Red Sea Of Eilat
They pride themselves on having the most beautiful sunsets in the world. Eilat’s mauve mountain range blazes above a sea-scape adorned with gold, reflecting the whims of the sky; the sights make you truly ecstatic. Eilat offers you a cocktail of emotions. Located in the southernmost part of Israel at the gateway to the Negev desert, bordered by Jordan in the east and by the Egyptian Sinai in the west, this town is more than just a modern and festive seaside resort.
A paradise for divers with its multicoloured corals and fish colonies, Eilat also lets you enjoy the charm of solitude and walks in its pristine nature. Here you can hear the wind before it even touches your skin.
This is a destination introducing you to some contrasting pleasures, with its very unique, colourful and soft atmosphere. Something special is floating in this air. Its sea, the saltiest in the world, seems to carry you, conveying a sense of incredible lightness.
Luxury hotels, exotic restaurants, boutiques and shopping centres are all out there, in the Gulf area. All the comfort and luxuries that summer vacationers and sunny-shore lovers could dream about. But just a little bit further, a stone’s throw away from these concrete buildings, you will find sober and desolate landscapes, a vast sandy immensity. You may either walk through the dunes or take an appropriate vehicle. A true adventure and a change of scenery are guaranteed. Half an hour away from Eilat, a little village is perched on top of a hill. This is an authentic kibbutz reminiscent of the times of pioneers.
Petra, An Ancient City Cut In The Rock
An easily manageable journey from Eilat will take you into Jordan, introducing you to one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, the ancient city of Petra. This is a different universe where a few Bedouins still live. Petra is a famous archeological site located in the southwest of the Jordanian desert. Back in about 300 A.D., it was the capital of the Nabataean kingdom. Only accessible by the narrow canyon of Siq, this is home to tombs and temples carved in the pink sandstone cliffs giving Petra the nickname of the «pink city». You may need to arm yourself with patience as the road may seem a bit long; and bring a woolen jumper — the desert can turn icy cold at certain hours of the day. At the end of the road, however, a dazzling experience is guaranteed to move you.
The magic starts as soon as you enter the canyon. The sun lights up the rocks in peculiar multicoloured bands. You may feel like you have ventured into the legend of the famous «Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade» movie. It was actually filmed next to the «Treasury». In the last scenes of «Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade», the «Treasury» serves as a secret temple lost for hundreds of years. And that is actually what it is. Petra’s most famous monument has thus served as a decoration for that famous scene.
Take a walk through the ancient troglodyte houses to the top of the hill surmounted by a «monastery». This imposing monument perched at the height of 800 steps gives you a true feeling of being plunged into a movie setting. You can reach it either on foot or by donkey. The scenery seems unreal and is guaranteed to provide you with unique sensations.
Here we seem to be part of a story much bigger than ourselves. This is a tribute to the men of the past who carved this magnificent architecture in the rock that has resisted the ravages of time. How could these gigantic buildings preserve all their finest features? How could these artfully engraved motifs have kept all their freshness? Just imagine the pharaonic work of building this city in times when tools were few and rudimentary? So many questions tickle the visitor’s imagination, populating his memories. A fantastic journey in time to the very heart of human genius.
Practical Information for Tel Aviv
Direct flights operate between Tel Aviv and Nice Côte d’Azur Airport. EasyJet provides two weekly connections throughout the year (the flight duration is approximately 4 hours).
Israeli National Tourist Office
Tel: +33(0)1 4261 8587, +33(0)1 4261 8584, +33(0)1 4261 8588
The Norman Tel Aviv
A high class establishment in the very heart of the city. This is a hotel with a successful contemporary design and with a discreet style of sophistication, a boutique atmosphere, a rooftop with swimming pool ideal for enjoying the sunset and a private garden. These outstanding features have earned it the Best World Boutique Hotel 2015 nomination with the American publication Jetsetter.
The Norman Tel Aviv (50 rooms and suites)
23–25 Nakhmani Street, Tel Aviv–Yafo, Israel
Tel: +972 3 543 5555
MUST-SEE ON YOUR VISIT
Visit the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and its fabulous collection of impressionist and 20th century paintings.
27 Shaul Hamelech Blvd., in the Golda Meir Cultural and Art Centre
Discover the Abouelafia bakery, an emblematic place in the heart of old Jaffa. There are delicious specialties in what is a virtual temple of gluttony. An exceptional place. This bakery has been there since 1879 and used to be a gourmet’s delight well before the creation of the State of Israel.
Yefet 7, Tel Aviv–Yafo
One of Tel Aviv’s most beautiful squares at the intersection of several grand boulevards. A cultural place vibrating at every moment of the day and night. Take a stroll through the gardens facing the theatre and Charles Bronfman Auditorium and enjoy the classical music streamed into this peaceful place. You can reach Habima Square by Rothschild Boulevard, Hen Boulevard, Dizengoff Street and Ben Zion Boulevard.
Practical information for Eilat and Petra
Several airlines offer connections from Europe to the newly opened Eilat Ramon International Airport.
From Tel Aviv, you can opt for a one hour flight or a 4–5 hour bus drive, letting you enjoy the magical landscapes of the Negev.
To discover the many activities offered by the seaside resort of Eilat, please visit the website of the Ministry of Tourism:
For excursions to Jordan and Petra:
Tel: +972 (0)2 566 0045
Texts and photos: Nicole Laffont